"Sorry, Ted. The company feels that if we ease up because someone dies, it will only encourage other people to die."
Better Off Ted is a sci-fi corporate satire sitcom. I know, I know, those are a dime a dozen, right? sainfoin_fields actually nailed it with her description of it as "30 Rock with mad science." The show is set at Veridian Dynamics, a multinational corporation that makes things that make your life better. Please take forty-five seconds and watch that commercial, as it gives you an indication of the show's sense of humor. Also, the Veridian Dynamics commercials are basically THE GREATEST THINGS EVER MADE. I was very sad that they didn't do them every episode in the second season. Veridian Dynamics freezes its employees, weaponizes pumpkins, designs killer robots, and basically turns anything into something destructive and awful. But its employees are just regular people trying to do their jobs!
"Can't we develop one product that doesn't end up being used to kill people? Even our fat-free cinnamon roll led to that new sticky bomb."
The titular Ted is our protagonist and narrator, and I really enjoy how fluidly he breaks the fourth wall to address us, even in the middle of dialogue with other characters. He's a single dad, and he wants to set a good, moral, ethical example for his precocious daughter, Rose, even though he works for an evil company. Jay Harrington is a great straight man, and he's very matter-of-fact about his moral dilemmas, freely admitting when he does something that goes against his principles. His boss, Veronica, is essentially Lindsay Bluth crossed with Jack Donaghy: a beautiful, self-centered, corporate shark unable to relate to the world outside of business. Portia de Rossi's delivery is AMAZING, and the writers continue to give her hilarious lines to deliver with verve and/or obliviousness. Ted has the obligatory UST with Linda, who has some unspecified job in the testing department but would really like to get out of there before the corporate environment sucks her soul away. The great thing about Linda is that she's introduced as the love interest, but she's actually a strong character in her own right, and her life does not revolve around Ted at all (they pull back on the romance angle after a few episodes, which helps). And Andrea Anders is not only good with a zinger but also not afraid to make a fool out of herself. Finally, we have our odd-couple scientists, Phil and Lem, who take co-dependency to a whole new level. They hero-worship Ted, who will find them talking to strange blobs, mourning robots, or naming corpses. Jonathan Slavin is hilariously pathetic and awkward. Malcolm Barrett has an odd, deliberate way of speaking that is sometimes annoying but perfectly nerdy. There is no weak link in the cast, and they all have funny material to work with.
"Linda, you can't hurt a baby."
"Well, you can hurt them. They're not indestructible."
"I meant it's morally indefensible."
"Well, what if the baby killed a man?"
"You and your moral puzzles. I just love 'em."
Better Off Ted is fucking hilarious. It rarely falls into the same old classic sitcom tropes,and even when it does, it provides a fresh take on them by virtue of its wacky, offbeat tone. Genuine laughs are plentiful; there's not an unfunny episode in the bunch. The humor is random, and there are punchlines every few seconds, but it all feels natural, not like it's trying too hard. This is perhaps the first sitcom in which the word vainglorious has appeared. The character dynamics are fun to watch develop, and nearly every episode passes the Bechdel test because of Linda and Veronica's attempts to bond. It's a perfect satire of corporate culture, with its endless memos and attempts to boost morale despite not really caring about its employees as people, yet we care about our characters as people. It has silly sci-fi inventions and jokes about aerodynamic bagels. Actually, there are a lot of jokes about bagels. Seriously, this show needs to be on more brilliant-but-canceled lists. Who knows why America didn't embrace it? DOES AMERICA HATE LAUGHING?
"The potential for a long-lasting light bulb is enormous. In a recent study, people's desire to see things ranked third, right after hitting things and trying to have sex with things."
Better Off Ted. You should watch it. That's a fact.
"Linda, just listen to yourself. Those are just facts, and facts are just opinions, and opinions can be wrong."
Well, fine then.